Ten-man Ballymena United scored an injury time winner to beat Dungannon Swifts 1-0 at the Showgrounds today.
David Cushley’s stoppage time effort settled a dour game in Ballymena’s favour after they had striker Matthew Tipton sent off early in the second half.
Ballymena had also missed a first half penalty before they eventually snapped their three game losing streak in the Danske Bank Premiership.
With neither side having a point to their name in October, it was a fraught opening with Tony Kane’s superb volleyed cross from the right inches too high for Matthew Shevlin’s head.
Ballymena spurned a glorious opening on 10 minutes when they were awarded a penalty.
Dwayne Nelson’s wind-assisted clearance sailed over the Dungannon defence and was superbly brought under control by Matthew Tipton who then went down under a challenge from Andrew Burns.
There were few appeals but referee Evan Boyce pointed to the spot and cautioned the defender.
With Tipton and David Cushley having missed United’s last two spot kicks, skipper Jim Ervin took over the penalty-taking duties but his effort met with the same fate as Swifts keeper Andy Coleman dived to his left to palm away the effort.
Dungannon’s first effort came on 20 minutes when Dale Montgomery’s cross from the right was met with a first-time volley by Dermot McCaffrey but the wing-back’s side-footed effort sailed over the bar from 12 yards.
McCaffrey was again involved in the Swifts’ next chance on 28 minutes as his first time cross from a short corner was toe-poked goalwards by the in-rushing David Armstrong but the defender’s effort crept inches wide of the post.
There was an early chance in the second half as Dungannon keeper Andy Coleman fumbled Jim Ervin’s cross but the keeper recovered to block Allan Jenkins’ follow-up effort.
Ballymena were reduced to 10 men on 49 minutes when leading goalscorer Matthew Tipton was given a straight red card after catching Ryan Harpur with a raised boot in a midfield challenge.
Dwayne Nelson produced a save of the season contender to keep the scoreline blank on 58 minutes as Paul McElroy’s cross from the left was flicked on and fell into the path of Kris Lowe.
The midfielder seemed odds-on to score as the ball sat up nicely but Nelson somehow managed to swivel his body to palm the effort away from point-blank range.
Dungannon enjoyed a spell of pressure as they attempted to make their extra man count but short of a few goalmouth scrambles, they rarely troubled Nelson.
At the other end, Cushley headed over from a Michael Ruddy cross as the game looked to be petering out into a dull stalemate.
But, not for the first time in a Ballymena game this season, there was late drama. With the game having moved into stoppage time, Tony Kane’s long throw was half-cleared. Gavin Taggart hooked the ball back in to the penalty area where it was headed down by Kyle McVey into the path of Cushley, who beat Coleman with a scuffed finish from close range.
Ballymena United: Nelson, Kane, McVey, Taylor, Ervin, Faulkner (sub Ruddy 61), Thompson (sub Taggart 35), Jenkins, Cushley, Tipton, Shevlin (sub Henderson 74). Subs (not used): Magennis, Gawley.
Dungannon Swifts: Coleman, Burns, Wilson, Armstrong, McCaffrey, Lowe, Fitzpatrick (sub Mullen 61), Harpur, Montgomery (sub Teggart 72), McElroy (sub Douglas 84), Mitchell. Subs (not used): Addis, Burke.
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)